Live: Stryper in Warrendale

Stryper is a band that has been through the ringer lately. Their longtime bassist Tim Gaines caused quite a bit of disruption in the band which led to his dismissal and was replaced by longtime Firehouse bassist Perry Richardson who has somehow lit a fire in the rest of the band.

Despite all the distractions the band have somehow managed to serve up their best effort since In God We Trust entitled God Damn Evil and the energy in the band is at an all time high.

That energy was palatable when Stryper hit the main stage at Jergel’s Rhythm and Grille. You could almost feel a static charge in the air when they took the stage to screams of delight and just like that it was on. Richardson wasted no time acclimating himself. It was like he was always there as the ripped through a couple of newer songs like “Yahweh” and “The Valley.” Even on classic songs like “Calling on You,” he fit right in with the fans. He was now part of the family.
Not wanting to feel left out, Michael Sweet- as always absolutely owned the crowd and held them in the palm of his hand. They hung on his every word and often sung louder than he himself did, but it didn’t drown him out. It only made him sing louder, hitting notes like no one has ever heard and making them last a lifetime.

He won their hearts with “Lady” and gave an out of this world performance of “Sorry.” All the while the band’s backup vocals sounded absolutely flawless.

Then there was the nearly perfect performance by Oz Fox. It was delivered with technical dexterity unlike anything anyone has ever seen. He absolutely shredded on song like “Surrender” and the fan favorite “Soldiers Under Command”, but it was on newer songs like “God Damn Evil,” “Big Screen Lies” or the slower “Can’t Live Without Your Love” where the depth of his amazing playing really shines. He is truly an unbelievable gift and an outstanding player.

Now I’m sure by now you were beginning to think “What about the visual timekeeper” Mr. Robert Sweet. Don’t worry I was just saving the best for last. Robert played his ass off throughout the entire night.

As a matter of fact if you watched him from the second floor you could see just how violently his entire kit shakes. From that view it looked as if the kit would implode on itself at any minute. As a matter of fact, he played so hard on closer “To Hell with the Devil” it almost did.

The band as a whole never sounded so good and they haven’t gelled like that on stage for quite some time. I guess sometimes the changes that you don’t necessarily want can actually turn out to be some of the best changes you didn’t even know you needed. That is the case here. The real question is, after the tour is over, what will you, treat us to next.

-Eric Hunker

-Cover photo courtesy of Gary Dotterweich/Hipshots by GD